Five startups launching mobility pilots in Michigan get state funding

LANSING—From secure prescription drug deliveries for cancer patients to autonomous shuttles at a college campus, the latest round of PlanetM Mobility Grant recipients are offering consumer-focused solutions in industries with the greatest need.

State officials also announced the addition of two new testing facility partners—the Keweenaw Research Center at Michigan Technological University in Calumet, and the Michigan Unmanned Aerial Systems Consortium (MUASC) in Alpena—which they say increases opportunities for testing new mobility-focused technologies throughout the state.

Five startups are the recipients of the second round of PlanetM Mobility Grants, with a total of more than $440,000 in grant funding awarded this round.

“Each startup selected offers a thoughtful solution to accessibility and transportation challenges across the state,” said Amanda Roraff, operations manager of PlanetM, the state of Michigan’s mobility-focused brand and business development program. “These startups will have a lasting impact in industries such as healthcare, where patients have identified barriers to mobility, and in higher education, where students have identified challenges to affordable and accessible transportation options.”

The Round Two recipients are:

Bedestrian ($100,000)

With support from Denso, and working with Beaumont Health, Bedestrian will deploy an autonomous delivery vehicle onsite at Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn. Set to launch in late 2019, the pilot will transport pharmaceuticals from the pharmacy lab to the cancer center. Bedestrian focuses on indoor and outdoor delivery services for last mile, micro-delivery solutions. The service is in the form of two vehicles: B1 is the lead autonomous vehicle and includes storage capacity and a customized smart voice assistant. B2 is an optional trailer with a temperature-controlled modular storage unit. They work independently or together to distribute anything from prescription drugs to food and packages. The service will be trackable via a mobile app and will be available around the clock. The project allows Bedestrian and Denso to explore unique applications of new mobility products and services that address real-world issues.

“We are excited and grateful to be selected by PlanetM as a grant recipient,” said Shadi T. Mere, CEO of Bedestrian. “We see it as further validation of our vision and also the strength and support of Michigan’s mobility ecosystem. We look forward to demonstrating how collaboration with innovative teams at Denso and Beaumont Health will lead to innovation at the forefront of the intersection of health and mobility.”

EasyMile ($103,600)

On a sprawling and hilly campus that experiences four seasons and regularly sees new development, navigating between buildings can become a challenge for students and faculty at Oakland University in Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills in Oakland County. EasyMile, a provider of autonomous vehicle technology and smart mobility, will help to solve this challenge in partnership with Continental, Oakland University and the City of Auburn Hills, through an accessible autonomous shuttle service. The shuttle works in combination with EasyMile’s fleet management and supervision system, one of the first to be deployed with real-world autonomous vehicles. During the pilot, EasyMile and partner Continental will launch its Zonar technology that will provide more automation and receive digital, real-time vehicle inspections through newly integrated RFID technology. Oakland University students will operate the shuttle as part of a STEM program at the university. EasyMile has deployed its pioneering autonomous technology in 26 countries, including college campuses and in mixed-traffic environments.

“The EasyMile shuttle will provide our students and faculty the opportunity to learn about autonomous systems and collect valuable data to improve this technology,” said Louay M. Chamra, dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Oakland University.

Hi-Ho Mobility ($80,000)

Through a partnership with Aequitas, Hi-Ho Mobility will pilot a chain-of-custody integrated software and hardware to provide secure prescription drug delivery to rural homes in the Battle Creek area. Aequitas Mobility Services (AMS) has been working in the Battle Creek area to provide door-to-door non-emergency medical transportation and rides to and from work. Without fixed routes and stops, AMS is positioned to serve areas that have historically been disconnected to affordable public transportation and provide a mobility option during hours that other sources of transportation are currently not available.

“Our customizable smart lockers with access through smartphones solves the need for physical security of sensitive goods in the field,” said Mike Janzen, chief technology officer of Hi-Ho Mobility. “It also provides the digital access, chain-of-custody tracking and analytics that are demanded by clients in the 21st century.”

Naventik ($75,000)

Based in Germany, Naventik is launching a software-based GPS receiver that doesn’t require traditional, expensive embedded hardware. The company specializes in localization technology for safety-critical automotive applications by enabling satellite navigation for autonomous vehicles. Through a partnership with Dataspeed, Naventik will bring this technology to the United States.

“After successful integration projects with major automakers including Volkswagen in Germany, we are eager to provide our software Satellite Navigation receiver also to the U.S. market,” said Peter Kalinowski, CFO of Naventik. “The project with Dataspeed will prove that our USP—highest accuracy, precision and robustness at lowest cost—is also valid for North American regions. We look forward to deploying our solution in a traditional automotive hotspot like Detroit.”

Navya ($85,000)

Headquartered in France, with a subsidiary located in Ann Arbor, Navya specializes in the design and development of autonomous electric vehicles. In partnership with Bestmile, Flagstar Bank and IXR Mobility, Navya’s Michigan fleet will deploy a groundbreaking accessible autonomous shuttle to help improve paratransit services, in an area surrounding the Detroit Medical Center (DMC). By improving paratransit mobility, Navya and its partners will demonstrate how to use autonomous vehicles to provide mobility services for the underserved. Navya provides mobility for numerous sites including hospitals, cities, airports and campuses.

Said Patrick Pylypuik, vice president of sales, North America, for Navya: “This deployment will serve as the example of how to utilize autonomous technologies to create a comprehensive mobility service catering to all populations.”

Derq, a Dubai-and-Detroit-based traffic safety tech startup, received the first PlanetM Pilot Grant in June 2018 to pilot its technology in Detroit, followed by HAAS Alert, set to deploy a first-in-the-nation complete citywide digital alert system in Grand Rapids, Humanising Autonomy, which will test bus driver alerts in an effort to help predict pedestrian, cyclist and vulnerable road user actions, and RoadBotics, an infrastructure tech company using artificial intelligence to generate automated pavement condition data on Detroit roadways to build a robust, data-driven pavement management strategy for the City of Detroit.

“We’re proud to support pilots that have a meaningful impact in our communities, and that serve as a model for mobility startups and corporations globally,” said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM. “Providing funding to these pilot programs and their partners to see their ideas come to fruition, as well as connecting them with the state’s ideal ecosystem, furthers our mission to position Michigan as the global epicenter for mobility deployment, and hopefully encourages other states to help companies test and deploy future mobility solutions in their regions.”

PlanetM Mobility Grants also provide aid to mobility startups and corporations to test, validate and prove out new technologies on Michigan roadways and air space, or at one of the state’s premier testing facilities, including the American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti Township, Mcity at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the GM Mobility Research Center at Kettering University in Flint.

As for the new testing centers, Jim Makowske, CEO at MUASC in Alpena, said: “The unmanned aerial systems community will benefit from MUASC’s continuous efforts to establish airspace for testing, new partnerships and coordination of operations within our state. PlanetM’s inclusion and funding for UAS operators is a major step. MUASC looks forward to helping shape the future of innovation by supporting our operators, and the other test sites, to meet the challenges ahead with the next generation of solutions.”

And Keweenaw Research Center director Jay Meldrum said: :Since 1954, customers have been testing vehicles at KRC. More than 900 acres of test courses include ride and handling loops, vehicle dynamics areas, smooth ice rinks, rough ice rinks, icy slopes of different grades, high and low friction areas for anti-lock brake testing, and refrigeration units to freeze vehicles down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As the world contemplates the operation of semi- and fully autonomous vehicles, inevitably they will need to consider both lousy weather, rough roads and what we like to call ‘unstructured environments.’ Our consistently lousy weather, spotty cellular coverage, and unstructured roads and terrain, partnered with a world class research university, make KRC the perfect place to validate next generation autonomous vehicle technologies.”

To better support all-sized mobility companies, PlanetM is rebranding its grant program, previously titled “PlanetM Startup Grant,” to “PlanetM Mobility Grant.”

“We’re proud to support projects that have a meaningful impact in our communities, and that serve as a model for mobility startups and corporations globally,” said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM. “Providing funding—whether to pilot programs and their partners or for testing opportunities – helps new ideas come to fruition, as well as connecting these companies with the state’s ideal ecosystem. The PlanetM Mobility Grant furthers our mission to position Michigan as the global epicenter for mobility deployment, and hopefully encourages other states to help companies test and deploy future mobility solutions in their regions.”

The pilot application will remain open through June 1. Testing grant applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis through Sept. 1. To apply or learn more, visit planetm.com/grants.

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